Silver Ferns: Rasmussen and Watson out

Section
Radio Sport,
Publish Date
Friday, 15 September 2017, 2:26PM
Maia Wilson Silver Ferns (Image \ Photosport)
Maia Wilson Silver Ferns (Image \ Photosport)

Two frontline players from last season have been dropped from the Silver Ferns line-up for the upcoming Constellation Cup series against Australia.

Veteran midcourter Grace Rasmussen and defender Jane Watson, who rocketed up the national ranks in 2016, are the notable omissions from the 12-strong line-up to take on the Diamonds. Dynamic midcourter Whitney Souness, who made her debut in last month's Quad Series, has edged Rasmussen for a spot in the 12, while Watson is casualty of the rise of young defenders Kelly Jury and Temalisi Fakahokotau.

After selecting a mix of 17 players across the first two series of the year, with the young shooter Monica Falkner the only player of that group not to take the court across the six tests, the national selectors had the tough job of condensing the squad into their strongest 12.

The line-up named today provides a strong indication of which players the selectors see taking them through to next year's Commonwealth Games.

 

Souness' inclusion in the side to face Australia continues her rapid rise. The 21-year-old was one of the bolters in the national squad after a strong showing at national trials. She continued to impress in her outings during the Quad Series, compelling coach Janine Southby to pick the youngster for the Ferns' biggest challenge of the season - taking on a wounded Australian side.

Leaving out Rasmussen, whose experience and nous proved valuable in the tense final quarter of the Ferns 62-55 win over England in the series decider on Wednesday night, is a gamble, but it is understood the selectors believe they have plenty of evidence of what Rasmussen can do against Australia, and are keen to see what Souness can produce.

Coach Janine Southby says the team has plenty of speed, creativity and versatility - something they'll need if they're to claim the Constellation Cup for the first time since 2012.

"This is a trophy that has eluded us for a few years now. We took a lot of confidence out of that win against Australia in the Quad Series, but we know that the Constellation Cup is a different ball game," Southby said.

"New Zealand v Australia battles are always fierce - fans love them, the players love them - they're a great spectacle for our sport."

With the versatile Kayla Cullen able to provide cover in the defensive circle, the selectors have effectively named five midcourters in the group - Cullen, Souness, Gina Crampton, Shannon Francois and Sam Sinclair.

 

Phoenix Karaka, a member of the 2015 World Cup team, is one of the other big casualties in the defensive end alongside Watson. In the shooting end, Maia Wilson returns to the line-up after sitting out the Taini Jamison series due to the inclusion of Falkner.

There will be opportunities for other players to force their way into the line-up ahead of the Commonwealth Games. The return leg of the Quad Series in South Africa and England is scheduled for January, while Netball New Zealand is in the process of lining up a series against one of the competing Commonwealth Games teams in the weeks leading up to the Gold Coast tournament.

The Constellation Cup gets underway in Auckland on October 5, before moving to Christchurch, and wraps up with the final two tests in Australia.

Silver Ferns team for Constellation Cup:
Katrina Grant (c), Maria Tutaia (vc), Gina Crampton, Kayla Cullen, Temalisi Fakahokotau, Shannon Francois, Kelly Jury, Bailey Mes, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Sam Sinclair, Whitney Souness, Maia Wilson

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